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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
WH: New Israeli Settlements "May Not Be Helpful"; U.S. Ambassador to U.N. Hits Russia Hard on Ukraine; Mexico's Foreign Minister Sets the Record Straight on U.S.-Mexico Call. Aired 8-9p ET
Aired February 2, 2017 - 20:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
[20:00:02] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: And good evening. Thanks for joining us.
A busy night today. President Trump making what could be seen as a change on expanding Israeli settlements, taking confrontational steps towards Iran. And on top of all of that, confounding a longtime ally, Australia.
We begin with a new White House position or potentially a new White House position on Israeli settlements and sanctions on Iran.
CNN's Michelle Kosinski is reporting on Iran tonight. Elise Labott is on Israel.
But, first, Michelle Kosinski at the White House -- excuse me -- at the State Department.
So, Michelle, what about these possible sanctions?
MICHELLE KOSINSKI, CNN SENIOR DIPLOMATIC CORRESPONDENT: Well, they could be coming soon.
COOPER: And, clearly, we just lost Michelle.
Let's go to Elise Labott, who's standing by to talk about the latest on Israel.
There's late word from the White House, marking what could be seen, I guess, Elise, as a shift in the administration's approach to the issue of expanding Israeli settlements. What do you know?
ELISE LABOTT, CNN GLOBAL AFFAIRS CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, it's really fascinating, because since President Trump was elected, you saw that he was vehemently defending Israel at the U.N. over that vote on settlements, and you kind of got this impression that he was going to be giving Israel a green light. And since he took office, you've seen Israel announced 5,500 new settlement homes in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. That's really more than you've seen in recent years.
But tonight, the White House came out with a statement saying that, "While we don't believe the existence of settlements is an impediment to peace, the construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements beyond their current borders may not be helpful in achieving that goal." That statement by Press Secretary Sean Spicer.
And, of course, you have to take this into the context of what's happening in Israel today. You saw the eviction of settlers from this illegal outpost in Anona, in the West Bank. And so, I think that the Israelis have been making this announcement, you know, because really, everything is about local politics and domestic politics in Israel. That was that announcement was about.
But for the White House to come out and say, "You've made your announcements, let's cut it out now," is really significant.
COOPER: How does this compare, though, to what former President Obama had to say about continued Israeli settlements being built?
LABOTT: Well, some of it is the same. You know, saying that they're unhelpful. But, you know, I spoke to some Israelis tonight. And they said, look, as far as Israel is concerned, it's not so bad when you break it down, because they say that the settlements is not, they do not see the settlements as an impediment to peace.
That's what President Obama had called them, an impediment to peace. And they're talking about construction of new settlements or the expansion of existing settlements, beyond the borders. And so, you know, look, it's even been a problem for the Obama administration for Israel to build within those settlements. And so, for the Trump administration to say, look, you can build within the borders, but nothing new, as far as Israeli is concerned, it's not so bad.
You know, some Israelis think that this could be President Trump giving Prime Minister Netanyahu a little bit of cover. You know that Prime Minister Netanyahu used to use the Obama administration as a foil against the right wing, which is very, you know --
COOPER: The right wing in Israel.
LABOTT: -- pushing this -- the right wing in Israel -- pushing those settlements. He always used to say, "No, I don't want to get a lot of flack from the United States." With this very Israel-friendly attitude from President Trump, the right was getting very excited that they could do whatever they want. Now, this statement says to them, you can't.
And so, a lot of people do think it's President Trump giving prime minister cover to say, "All right, enough, guys," you know, you have this meeting between President Trump and Prime Minister Netanyahu on February 15th. The White House hasn't come out with its official settlement policy. I think the President Trump wants to speak to Prime Minister Netanyahu and develop a common approach.
COOPER: All right. Elise Labott, appreciate that, a complicated situation. Now, let's try too back to the Iran sanctions story. I've managed to reestablish our connection with Michelle Kosinski at the State Department.
So, what are you learning about possible sanctions?
KOSINSKI: Right. So, they could happen soon and sources are telling CNN they'll likely target several Iranian entities about this ballistic missile launch. So, when you look at the type of penalties that are usually there for something like that launch, it's usually a statement of condemnation and then sanctions. The Obama administration did that exact same thing just last year after another launch.
What's different now is that this administration keeps talking very tough, saying, in the last couple of days, "Iran, you're on notice, there's a new sheriff in town, nothing is off the table, including a military option." And this administration is dedicated to holding Iran accountable.
So, it may be that sanctions are just one step in the penalty that they're planning, or they at least want to keep that messaging out there, that they're willing to do more in the future. At the very least, this administration seems very willing to act quickly, Anderson
[20:05:00] COOPER: What, if anything, does that mean for the Iran nuclear deal, which obviously Donald Trump has spoken against during the campaign?
KOSINSKI: I mean, these two issues were intentionally kept separate, and one of the things that Iran got out of the nuclear deal was the lifting of many sanctions. Not all of them, though, because Iran keeps doing more and more bad stuff, including its ballistic missile program.
So, Iran doesn't want more sanctions, but that doesn't mean that it won't respond to sanctions with more provocation. That's what it keeps doing. And there's sort of this testing period now, with each side tweaking the other, seeing what the response is. The Trump administration, though, proving, if they do, indeed, impose sanctions, that they're willing to move beyond the heated rhetoric and take at least some action at this point, Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Michelle Kosinski, appreciate the update.
A night of surprises following something of another surprise today at the United Nations. The new U.S. ambassador, Nikki Haley, making her Security Council debut, hitting Russia hard over the surge in violence in the eastern Ukraine.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
NIKKI HALEY, U.S. AMBASSADOR TO THE U.N.: I must condemn the aggressive actions of Russia. It is unfortunate, because it is a replay of far too many instances over many years in which United States representatives have needed to do that. It should not have to be that way. We do want to better our relations with Russia.
However, the dire situation in eastern Ukraine is one that demands clear and strong condemnation of Russian actions.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Ambassador Haley also called for an immediate end to the Russian occupation of Crimea and said the U.S. will not lift sanctions until Russia returns control of the peninsula to Ukraine.
Joining us to weigh in on all of this, all the developments tonight, is CNN senior political analyst and senior editor at "The Atlantic", Ron Brownstein, "New York Times" op-ed columnist, Charles Blow, chief political correspondent, Dana Bash, also Trump supporter and contributor to "The Hill", Kayleigh McEnany, Democratic strategist, Paul Begala, and Penny Nance, Trump supporter, CEO and president of Concerned Women for America, and author of "Feisty and Feminine: A Rallying Cry for Conservative Women."
Dana, I mean, you have three geopolitical hot spots, Iran, Israel, and now Russia. What do you make of all of the movements today?
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: I mean, it's really hard to keep up. And I think in some ways, that's kind of the point. What I find most fascinating is what you just reported. That Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, went before this body, and said things about Russia in Crimea that the president, her boss, differed with kind of in an 180-degree way during n the campaign.
I mean, he has been very open to the idea of not being tough on Russia, even open to the idea, at least on one occasion during the campaign, of just kind of leaving the Crimea situation alone. That is not what we heard from his ambassador to the U.N. today. I just talked to somebody who was familiar with the drafting of her remarks, who said that the White House is well aware of what she was going to do, but also well aware of her position on this, which is pretty hawkish, which is more in line, frankly, with the Republican Party's credo and philosophy, which is to be tough on Russia.
She made that clear in her confirmation hearings. The White House and president heard that, and she's going to continue to do that.
COOPER: You know, Paul, just last night on the broadcast, you were critical of the administration for not speaking out about the situation in Ukraine. Does this give you confidence?
PAUL BEGALA, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: Yes, well, it gives me hope. Ambassador Haley said exactly what Democrats and Republicans, and I think Americans want to hear. And I think it's terrific, how she stood up for our values, American values.
But, you know, John Mitchell, back in the Nixon administration used to say, watch what we do, not what we say. There are reports now that what the Trump administration is going to do or is doing is easing sanctions on the FSB, which is the KGB, the successor interest of the KGB.
So, we're talking tough, which is better than we were doing yesterday. So I'm very impressed with Ambassador Haley. But if we're easing sanctions on Russia, where their separatists
killed 19 people in eastern Ukraine yesterday alone, we have 20,000 people in Ukraine, in this region, who are without water or heat. It's freezing cold. A humanitarian crisis, all caused by the Russians, and we're talking about easing sanctions.
COOPER: But a lot of the reporting say saw on allegedly easing sanctions against the FSB this morning is pointing out it's not quite what some of the headlines made it out to be.
BEGALA: Right. And it should be reported more carefully, but there should be no talk of easing in any way. We should be toughening the sanctions, not easing them.
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: You're right. Even Jake Sullivan, who's worked in the foreign policy realm for Biden and Obama and Hillary Clinton said this was a technical easing --
COOPER: Michael Weiss, who we've had on this broadcast.
MCENANY: Sure, of course.
But I think what was interesting about Nikki Haley's statement is Trump has indicated he's willing to defer to the people he's appointed, in some capacity. We know with General Mattis, he has said, whatever he says on enhanced interrogation methods, that's going to stand. I'm going to defer to him.
So, my question is, is this kind of a deference -- saying, look, Nikki Haley is who I appointed to this position, I'm going to defer to her in this regard?
[20:10:05] We didn't see President Trump come out and rebuff anything she's said. This is someone who is his employee, he didn't rebuff her as we've seen him do in other occasions. So, to me, it says deference to the people who I've appointed.
BASH: You're absolutely right. And as I said, I was told that the White House was well aware of what she was going to do. The question is, where does that deference end? I mean, is he completely defer on issues that he really seemed to completely disagree with before and continue to do that and have that become his policy? Or will the policy be contradictory and confused, which will confuse our allies and our foes --
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: And historically, the U.N. ambassador is not the official who's making policy on Russia, right? They're not deferring to the real policymaker there.
Look, in all of the examples you're talking about, it is reality -- you know, this is why governing is harder than campaigning. It is easy to draw bright lines and usually to say the previous administration is not being tough enough on whatever the problem is. And then when you get in office, you know, you're faced with a
different set of concerns. And I think -- I thought Elise's point about the way in which President Trump may be giving Benjamin Netanyahu some more room is important, but it's also true that there was an inherent contradiction in the way he talked about Israel during the campaign. Because on the one hand, he talked about standing more shoulder to shoulder with Netanyahu, and on the other hand, talked about being the guy who finally made the deal and how much that appeal to him as a deal maker.
If you're standing shoulder to shoulder to the extent he's implied, it's very hard to be the honest broker and make the deal. And I think you see some of those pressures playing out today in this kind of slight repositioning.
COOPER: Yes. Penny, a lot of Trump's conservative supporters, you know, obviously like his strong alliance with Israel. I mean, just as Obama supporters liked his, with his strong alliance.
PENNY NANCE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: My guess is, a lot of evangelicals watching tonight took a deep breath when you said that, because, as you know, he was elected by 86 percent of evangelicals and we are strong supporters of the nation of Israel. And would -- and recognized Judea and Samaria, the areas people call the disputed territory as the historic home to Israel.
COOPER: The notion, though, as Elise was reporting, of him giving cover to Netanyahu, I think, is an interesting one.
NANCE: And very much a possibility. Of course, we know the prime minister is going to be coming very soon.
I know, in fact, evangelicals just met with the ambassador to -- from Israel to the United States and the future ambassador to Israel. And are getting to know him, and I think it's going to be a very close relationship between evangelicals and again, with Israel foreign policy. But, again, we feel very strongly that the land belongs to Israel and that the U.S. government needs to stand in lockstep with Israel on that point.
COOPE: Charles, what do you think?
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I see it as a bigger -- I look at it bigger picture, which is, you know, this is where bluster meets actual, you know, the situation on the ground. All of these situations are real strong, smart, strategists, who bid on, in the political arena, and on the world stage, for in some cases, decades, and they're going to push the boundaries, to see where the edges are.
And, you know, people like to talk about Trump as the first citizen president of the United States. That is true, but there's a negative to that, which is that these people are really strong and, you know, big personalities, know exactly what they want, know which buttons to push, are going to push you until you bend or break. And that is what is going to happen with Donald Trump, even among the people who he counts as friends. That is how political leaders on the world stake operate. There are
no absolute friendships on the world stage. People push until they can see where they can no longer push anymore, and then they draw the line, and say, this is where our boundary is.
BROWNSTEIN: No permanent allies, only permanent interests.
We're going to continue this after a very short break. A lot more to talk about, including the fallout from President Trump's phone call with Australia's prime minister, also Mexico's president. My exclusive interview with a Mexican official who was listening on that call with Mexico's president.
Plus, new reporting on the raid in Yemen that cost a Navy SEAL his life. The planning originated in the Obama administration, but it was the first raid of its kind approved by President Donald Trump and now, former Obama officials are speaking out.
We'll be right back.
[20:17:41] COOPER: New details tonight about President Trump's phone calls with world leaders from reportedly stormy call with Australia to conflicting reports and the conversation between President Trump and Mexico's president. President Trump today said, don't worry about it, we'll leave that for you to decide.
Sara Murray tonight has the latest.
SARA MURRAY, CNN WHITE HOUSE CORRESPONDENT: President Trump irking allies on the Hill and abroad with his on-the-fly diplomacy, after a contentious call with the Australian prime minister. While Trump tossed out some quick praise for America's Aussie ally today --
DONALD TRUMP, PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES: I have a lot of respect for Australia. I love Australia as a country.
MURRAY: -- sources tell CNN the president's Saturday evening call with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was tense. Trump took issue with an Obama administration deal to accept 1,250 refugees from an Australian detention center, a move that collides with Trump's decision to suspend the refugee program for 120 days. And suspend the Syrian refugee program indefinitely.
TRUMP: I said, why? Why are we doing this? What's the purpose?
MURRAY: Today, Trump is still fuming over the agreement, even after administration officials made clear the U.S. would honor it.
As for the Australian prime minister, he insists his call with Trump ended courteously, even if it had an edge to it. MALCOLM TURNBULL, AUSTRALIAN PRIME MINISTER: As far as the nature of
the discussion, it was very frank and forthright. I stand up for Australia's interests. I make Australia's case as powerfully and persuasively as I can, wherever I am.
MURRAY: Trump's unorthodox approach to diplomacy is unnerving U.S. allies, career civil servants, and even GOP leaders, who quickly defended the long-standing allegiance between the U.S. and Australia.
SEN. JOHN MCCAIN (R), ARIZONA: This, in my view, was an unnecessary and frankly harmful open dispute over an issue which is not nearly as important as United States/Australian cooperation.
MURRAY: It's just the latest indication of Trump's gruff style. Sources say in a call with Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto, he also fired off a warning about Mexico's tough hombres and offered U.S. assistance with the drug cartels.
The brash businessman turned head of state appears to have little appetite for changing course.
TRUMP: Believe me, when you hear about the tough phone calls I'm having, don't worry about it.
[20:20:03] Just don't worry about it. They're tough. We have to be tough.
MURRAY: Advisers say it's fitting with the world view Trump laid out in his inaugural address. Promising to rewrite the world order, and re-evaluate America's relationship with enemies and allies alike.
TRUMP: We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital, and in every hall of power, from this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first. America first.
COOPER: And Sara Murray joins us now from the White House.
So, did the Trump administration do anything to try to smooth over relations with Australia today?
MURRAY: Well, as has become a pattern for Trump, the chaos comes first, and the fence mending comes later. And that's a little bit of what we saw today. The Australian ambassador actually came to the White House to meet with Donald Trump's chief of staff, Reince Priebus, as well as his chief strategist, Steve Bannon. We also know that he got a couple of phone calls from well-placed Republicans on the Hill today, all trying to smooth things over, and assure that the U.S. and Australia will have a strong relationship going forward -- Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Sara Murray, thanks very much.
There were conflicting reports about the calls, most notably the one to Mexico's president. The White House is now characterizing President Trump's remarks about sending troops into the country, quote, "lighthearted," others painting it very differently.
Mexico's Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray was present for that call and I sat down with him earlier tonight for a 360 exclusive interview.
COOPER: There's obviously a lot I want to talk to you about the relationship between Mexico and the United States. There is, though, a lot of discussion about this phone call that occurred between President Trump and Mexico's President Pena Nieto. Were you on that call?
LUIS VIDEGARAY, MEXICO'S FOREIGN MINISTER: I was listening to the call. I was alongside the president. And I can tell you, Anderson, it was a very constructive call, the presidents agree based on that call, to continue working. So the teams will continue to work. I just had a good phone call with Secretary Tillerson, who we will be meeting shortly.
COOPER: Was that your first phone conversation with him as secretary of state?
VIDEGARAY: As secretary of state, yes. This was the first time, this just happened today.
COOPER: Is he someone you know previously?
VIDEGARAY: Yes, I know him from when I was minister of finance with Mexico and he was CEO of Exxon. I got to meet with him a couple times. And I know him and we are very excited to have the opportunity to work with him.
And that's what the presidents agree, that the teams will work. And we obviously have some notorious differences of positions, which have much more points of agreement. And we want to get to a good set of agreements in matters like security, immigration, that are good for Mexico and good for the United States. We're not there yet, but we're going to work to get there.
COOPER: I want to clear up some of the conflicting reports about this phone call. You say it was cordial, essentially. A Mexican journalist cited sources on both sides of the call said the quote was, quote, "It was a very offensive conversation where Trump humiliated Pena Nieto."
VIDEGARAY: Not at all.
COOPER: Not at all?
VIDEGARAY: That's plainly false.
COOPER: Also, the same journalist quoted Mr. Trump as saying, we're going to build the wall and y'all are going to pay for it, like it or not. Was the payment of the wall -- VIDEGARAY: Absolutely not -- well, on that, it's very clear that we
have a significant difference, and the presidents have a significant difference. And it's public, it's well known, but they agreed that they would not continue to publicly argue about that, because there are so many other things that we need to work on the relationship. The most different thing is it was a constructive call, and they agreed to keep working.
COOPER: There was also just some mixed details reported, and I want to clear them up. "The Associated Press" reported last night, not seen, but the "Associated Press", that during the call president Trump indicated that he might be ready to send U.S. troops to stop, quote, "bad hombres down there". Now, CNN has reported that what the president actually said was, "you have some pretty tough hombres in Mexico that you may need help, we are willing to help with that big league, but they have to be knocked out and you have not done a good job knocking them out."
Is that accurate?
VIDEGARAY: That second, according to my recollection, is more, certainly --
COOPER: So the CNN reporting is correct. The "A.P." indicating that there was an indication, perhaps, of U.S. troops. Was that ever -- was that --
VIDEGARAY: That was, that is nothing close to reality.
COOPER: OK. To me, that seems like an interpretation of what the president's saying, we're willing to help out with that.
VIDEGARAY: President Trump expressed how important it is for his administration to fight against organized crime, just as President Pena Nieto.
[20:25:00] And for instance, President Pena said how important it is to stop illegal weapons to get into Mexico. And those are coming from the U.S. and the importance of stopping cash, getting into the hands of the cartels, and how important it is to collaborate on that.
So, the presidents agree on that and President Trump was looking forward, saying that we are willing to cooperate, we're willing to help, just as President Pena Nieto said, and we're willing to help as well.
COOPER: When Donald Trump talks about renegotiating or doing away with NAFTA, what do you think?
VIDEGARAY: Well --
COOPER: Are you open to a renegotiation on that?
VIDEGARAY: We're absolutely open to making NAFTA better. NAFTA is a 20-year-old agreement. It was crafted in a different world. There was no ecommerce, the Mexican energy sector was closed, and some things -- clearly, some things can be improved about NAFTA, both for the benefit of the U.S., and for the benefit of Mexico.
So, yes, we are always hoping to discuss and as long as it's something that does not hurt Mexico's national interests.
COOPER: Has that negotiation actually started?
VIDEGARAY: No, not yet. We are -- we will be working over the next few months to start negotiations. In Mexico, we need to go through a consultation process first. We want to make sure that we gather the opinion of the Mexican Senate, the Mexican private sector, the unions, and then we'll start going through negotiations.
But I think there's, like in any trade negotiation, there's always room to make it a win-win negotiation. This does not have to be a negotiation in which one of the countries loses. We can make it a very good deal for both countries.
COOPER: I appreciate your time. Thank you very much.
VIDEGARAY: Thank you very much, Anderson.
COOPER: We had to cut that interview down for time. You can see the full interview at AC360.com.
So, the question is, are those phone calls good for U.S. interests or potentially bad for the relationships of some of America's closest allies. The panel's back to weigh in on that next, and more.
[20:30:52] ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Talking about the fallout from Pres. Trump's phone calls with the President of Mexico and the Prime Minister of Australia and the notion that two close allies should even be at the center of any diplomatic controversy at all. Let's point it back now with the panel.
Dana, I mean it is interesting that the day after this phone call, you have not only Sen. McCain, you know, trying to basically, I don't know, apologize, but trying to smooth things over with Australia. But also, you know, the Australian ambassador coming to the White House and meeting with Steve Bannon and Reince Priebus. That's not exactly how it's supposed to work after a phone call.
DANA BASH, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT: No, it's not, especially a phone call with your ally, very close ally, who has been fighting alongside U.S. troops since a century ago, really, in wars. And that is why people like John McCain, who respect that particularly because he's such a military sensibility, were furious.
But, you know, I think this is one of those situations where the, as you call him, the citizen president is really kind of slapping everybody in the face or really waking everybody up, in that he's not just a citizen president, he is the art of the deal.
BASH: He's the business guy. And the way that the conversation with the Australian Prime Minister was described, you can totally see him doing that, with every single deal he made in business.
COOPER: Well, that's --
BASH: Except the difference is, this is diplomacy.
COOPER: Well, that's why I found it interesting, him saying at the prayer meeting, don't worry about it. Essentially, he was saying, like, look ...
KAYLEIGH MCENANY, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: This is what I do.
COOPER: This is what I do.
MCENANY: And we shouldn't be worried about it, because here's what's happening. You have the Mexican Foreign Minister coming out, saying, this was a very constructive phone call. You have the Australian Prime Minister saying, we still have a very strong relationship. The alliances are still there. But what Pres. Trump is doing is aggressively advocating for American interests in these calls. And that is a very good thing.
What we should be worried about, and very concerned about, is the fact that you just had the Mexican Foreign Minister on saying, not only was it very constructive, but we agree on far more than we disagree about. And what was the headline out of the associated press? Not that, the headline was, Trump to Mexico. Take care of bad hombres or U.S. might. They depicted as it if it was some threatening, offensive phone call, when you just had the two -- that the participant ...
RON BROWNSTEIN, CNN SENIOR POLITICAL ANALYST: Listen. Maybe. Hold on.
MCENANY: ... on the call the other participant is saying, in fact ...
BROWNSTEIN: There's no world leader anywhere who has an incentive to say to their public that they were just pushed around, humiliated and belittled by the president of the United States. All of them are going to put the best possible face on the conversation. I mean there's no ...
COOPER: You heard Australia's ...
COOPER: Prime Minister saying, oh no.
BROWNSTEIN: Sure, everything's fine, mate! You know, look, I mean the fact is that, you know, Donald Trump is a disrupter. And that's what he has been. And he is questioning the U.S.-led International System of Alliances. I disagree very much. I think if you look at what he has said about the European Union, where he said he could care less if it unraveled, where his national trade adviser yesterday basically attacked Germany and the "Financial Times" saying they are depressing the value of the Euro so they can flood America with imports, what he said about NATO.
You are talking about a very wrenching a reassessment of America's relationship with nations around the world. And there may be Trump voters who like that. There are going to be a lot of other elements ...
BROWNSTEIN: ... in this society and societies around the world who find that very unnerving. And like most things that he is doing, it is taking the divisions that exist in his campaign and moving them into hyperspeed.
COOPER: But what I have, though, as Rex Tillerson now has been confirmed and is at the helm of the State Department. As you have his National Security team, as you have the Homeland Security, as you have the Secretary of Defense, do things become somewhat more, I don't know stabilized is the right word, but conventional? I mean, obviously, Donald Trump is not going to be ...
PENNY NANCE, TRUMP SUPPORTER: I hope not. I mean, I hope not actually. No, I think that, you know, listen, this is what voters wanted him to do. They wanted him to come in and to shake things up. And to renegotiate deals. And we believe that our interests weren't being served. The America first was more than a slogan, when he said it. We believe that he meant it. And we want him to question those deals.
And, you know, one quick point, not only did you have McCain, but you also had Bob Corker going around afterwards and calling over to Turnbull, and I don't think that's helpful.
[20:35:10] And I think to let Bob Corker need to understand that 60 percent of the State of Tennessee voted for Donald Trump.
And, so we do not need senators and, by the way, he didn't get the State Department job. And we don't need senators undermining what our president is trying to do.
COOPER: I guess the question is, Paul, is Australia the one you want to be -- you need to be pushing around, or is it Russia or whomever else?
PAUL BEGALA, DEMOCRATIC STRATEGIST: Right, what does it mean to say America first? I'm for America first. Who's not for America first, I'm an American.
MCENANY: Saying everything's on the table.
BEGALA: Does it -- well, it shouldn't be. OK, it should not be on the table. Australians have shed blood with Americans in second Word War, in Korea, in Vietnam, in Iraq, in Afghanistan. They are really central to our intelligence, especially in that region. You don't blow up that relationship if you believe in America. They're a force multiplier for the United States as our other allies.
Mexico is our second largest customer. We sell more stuff to Mexico than any other country in the world except Canada. OK, over a quarter of a trillion dollars a years, we sell. We sell, we export to Mexico. You don't blow that up if you care about America.
NANCE: He's not blowing it up.
MCENANY: He's not blowing up the relationship. He's not blowing up the relationship.
BEGALA: And so, he's got 12 days. He's got ...
MCENANY: He's question a deal made under the Obama administration where the Australian government said, we don't want to take these Syrian refugees, so the United States, you take them. He's questioning ...
COOPER: Charles, what do you say to those who say, look, this is exactly what Donald Trump was elected to, and he's reassessing all relations and that's what the folks who voted for him wanted.
CHARLES BLOW, CNN POLITICAL COMMENTATOR: I say look at the readouts that came from those meetings and look at how the leaders from Mexico and Australia responded. Because that illustration of the difference between diplomats and people who want to blow things up.
People who want to blow things up actually do come in like a bull in a China shop and they do tear things up. And that is really destructive. In fact, when they respond by saying, everything is pretty much OK and try to dampen it down, that's what diplomacy looks like in action.
And I think what is the most disruptive part of Trump so far is people around the world, world leaders, are trying to figure out if the principles of Donald Trump align in some way with the historical principles of the United States and there will be some continuity there. And if there is not, that throws everything up in the air. And that is actually not a productive thing. That does not put America first. That actually puts America in danger.
BROWNSTEIN: And, in fact, since World War II, I mean, look, it hasn't been altruism. It has been the view of both Republican and Democratic presidents that a world based around rules-based alliances in both the economic, and the diplomatic, and the military sphere has been in America's interests. It's been in America's interests for there to be a united Europe. There's been in America's interests for there to be a strong NATO.
If we are, in fact, questioning all of that, that is a wrenching change in our relationship, pretty much within the entire globe. COOPER: We've got to take a break. We have more breaking news ahead, new details emerging tonight about the deadly U.S. special ops raid against Al-Qaeda in Yemen.
Now the Trump administration saying the outgoing Obama team planned it. Sources inside the Obama administration now saying, well, not so fast. Details ahead.
[20:42:06] COOPER: Breaking news now about that deadly raid in Yemen targeting Al-Qaeda fighters that left U.S. Navy S.E.A.L. William "Ryan" Owens dead. Three other U.S. service members wounded. And a U.S. osprey aircfraft destroyed.
The word from the Trump administration was that the mission was all but launched by Pres. Obama's team before leaving office, but there's now some pushback on that narrative. There's a lot of it, in fact, CNN Chief National Security Correspondent Jim Sciutto joins us now. So Jim what are you learning?
JIM SCIUTTO, CNN CHIEF NATIONAL SECURITY CORRESPONDENT: Pushback contradiction, really, Anderson. I've spoken to members to the Obama administration and the national security space, others have spoken out publicly.
Now they say, one, the Obama administration did not OK this raid. And two, that it would not be okayed under any circumstances this far out, weeks, months in advance with so many variables on the ground. One official telling me, that's just not how it's done.
At the same time, we're learning that Pres. Trump was central to the final decision making on this raid.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
SCIUTTO: Tonight, new information that Pres. Trump was actively involved in the decision making on the Yemen raid up until the final hours.
On January 25th, four days before the mission, the president was briefed by National Security adviser, Michael Flynn, and then again during a 10-person White House dinner later that evening. The dinner, at Mr. Trump's request, included his three closest aides, chief of staff, Reince Priebus, and senior advisers, Jared Kushner, and Steve Bannon.
SEAN SPPICER, WHITE HOUSE PRESS SECRETART: He then, on that evening, had a dinner meeting, where the operation was laid out in great extent.
SCIUTTO: Like many high-risk military missions, the planning was months in the making. The initial proposed plans were first sent to the Pentagon on November 7th, during the Obama administration, and one day before the election. Department of Defense lawyers and legal experts then reviewed the details before approving the plan and sending it to the National Security Council on December 19th.
Next, the plan was reviewed by officials from defense, state, and the National Security Council. But there was one final delay, waiting for a moonless night to help conceal U.S. special operators. That would not come until late in January, after the swearing in of Donald Trump.
The new president gave final approval on January 26th, one day after that White House dinner, three days to mission launch.
SPICER: This was a very, very well-thought-out and executed effort.
SCIUTTO: The raid targeted a suspected Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula compound in Yemen's Al Bida' province. U.S. Navy S.E.A.Ls and UAE special operators immediately encountered AQAP fighters as they approached the compound.
According to the Pentagon, the fighters, including some females, positioned themselves along rooftops on adjacent buildings, pinning down U.S.-led forces. Aircraft conducted an air strike, leading to at least 23 civilian deaths, according to an NGO.
[20:45:03] The Al-Qaeda fighters used heavy arms, killing Navy S.E.A.L. William "Ryan" Owens. A v-22 osprey aircraft was badly damaged, as it tried to land to rescue the wounded. Special operators then took intelligence materials from the compound, including computer hard drives.
SPICER: When you look at the totality of what was gained to prevent the future loss of life here in America, and against our people and our institutions and probably throughout the world, in terms of what some of these individuals could have done, I think it is a successful operation by all standards.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jim, Sean Spicer called it a successful operation. U.S. Central command, they are still launching an investigation into the raid, correct? And is that standard protocol?
SCIUTTO: Well, when you lose a U.S. service member's life, yes. Listen, it's difficult to call it completely successful. You have one dead Navy S.E.A.L. You had a number more than two dozen civilian casualties, that according to an NGO on the ground. You also have, as of yet, an indeterminate intelligence haul (ph) from this raid. So it's difficult to call it a complete success.
And one more note, I spoke to a former Navy S.E.A.L. commander, who said that now that AQAP has shed American blood on Yemeni soil, that's an enormous propaganda win for AQAP. And that's something to be factored into this decision. These raids are always difficult, they're always dangerous. You know, very difficult to be 100 percent successful, but it's difficult to say this one, unequivocally, was a successful operation. COOPER: Our thoughts are with the family of all of those involved. Jim Sciutto, thanks very much.
Joining me now, CNN National Security Commentator, Mike Rogers, Former Chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, also Retired General, Mark Hertling, CNN Military Analyst.
General Hertling, I mean, the sort of back and forth now between former Obama White House officials and Trump administration officials saying this, you know, it was okayed before Obama left office, former Obama officials saying, that's not true that operation like this aren't plan up for an advance, what's your reaction to all of that?
LT. GEN. MARK HERTLING (RET.), CNN MILITARY ANALYST: It's silliness, Anderson. And what I'll tell you is this raid, like any other capture/kills sensitive site exploitation raid is planned months in advance. Details are consolidated, information is gained. There is more observation of the target. It occurs, depending on what the target is, and depending the target packaging, going after either an individual or the site.
It takes a lot of time to confirm or deny what's there. This was started in terms of the planning process a few months ago. But as items are collected and intelligence is gained, it's further refined. It is looked at by all the chain of command, the central command, and the special operations command. And they make decisions on it.
And it's passed back and forth between the Pentagon and the combatant commander. It will eventually get to the White House for final coordination and approval when it has certain elements that need the president's approval, because of things like politics and relationships with other countries. And that's what happened at the end.
Now, the timing of it, as I've learned today from some of my sources, was based on moonlight. And that was the final timing, but they also had to confirm or deny some other things before the raid took place, which delayed it. There was some back and forth with the National Security Council, and it was left up to Pres. Trump to make the final call.
This is the way these kind of operations go down. I think all the pointing back and forth between civilian officials about a raid that was conducted by the military, which is planned in advance and very well executed, is just nonsense.
COOPER: Yeah, I mean, Chairman Rogers, you hate to think politics get involved in something like this when you have service members putting their lives on the line and one Navy S.E.A.L. sacrificing his life.
MIKE ROGERS, CNN NATIONAL SECURITY COMMENTATOR: I think this thing is completely and utterly ridiculous, that there's a political debate about a well-thought-out, well-planned -- and listen, if everything was perfect this would be a different world. It's not.
COOPER: Right. ROGERS: It's dangerous. This reinforces how hard the fight on terrorism is, when you're going to insert United States in this, well, soldiers, special operators, into an environment like this. It's very, very difficult. Not all of them come out perfect.
And some notion that that whole military command is somehow ceded itself to some politics between Obama and Trump is nuts. And we better get over this in a hurry. I actually commend the president for saying, if my military advisers are telling me this is a good target, and by the way, they killed 14 Al-Qaeda terrorists in this raid. And they collected intelligence, which means at some point, they dominated the facility long enough to collect intelligence before they left.
Yes, these -- some things go wrong, the president should say, yes, the buck stops here, I did it. The Obama people ...
ROGERS: ... shame on them for coming out and plan this silly game when we lost a United States military member in defense of the United States.
[20:50:09] COOPER: And Gen. Hertling, just very briefly ...
COOPER: ... of Yemen operations, the U.S. had to take out a lot of their personnel from Yemen in recent years because of the change in government. So, our ability to the United States is ability to operate there from everything I've read has been hampered. Do you see that increasing or any change in that in the coming months or years?
HERTLING: Well, I think I do. First of all, Yemen also, Anderson, as many of us in the military know is the hot bed of Al-Qaeda. That's where it started, that's where it's been existing for the last two decades. It is a critical piece that shifted to other countries in between then, but this is a critical area. They have returned to this section.
But the other thing I jump on what Congressman Rogers said, you know, I think there's a feeling among Americans that the president is actually the Senior Squad Leader watching television or watching this operation go on. That's not what happens. He gets a briefing book by the special operations or (inaudible) saying here's what happened. Here's what we're going after. Here's the political and legal implications to approve or disapprove, go, we want to do it tomorrow. There is no over watching a camera or drone strike as we do these things.
COOPER: Yeah, Gen. Hertling, Chairman Rogers, always good to have you on. Thank you.
COOPER: Up next, Pres. Trump's pledge to help American workers as he met with executives from Harley-Davidson. They came to the White House today, appropriately enough on their bikes, on their Harleys after Trump's visit to the factory was canceled.
Hear what voters near Harley headquarters in Wisconsin think the new president tonight's "America Uncovered" report.
[20:55:12] COOPER: Well, as you know, Pres. Trump has talked a lot about "America first" both in business and in trade. Today the White House, the President met with Harley-Davidson executives who arrived, riding the company's famous motorcycles. They've been moved inside where Pres. Trump repeated his pledged to keep jobs in this country.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DONALD TRUMP, U.S. PRESIDENT: And this administration, our legions will be to the American workers and to American businesses like Harley-Davidson. We're going to make it really great for business, not just you but for everybody. We're going to be competitive with anybody in the world.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today's meeting happened today after the president's planned visit to a Harley-Davidson factory in Wisconsin was canceled. Trump administration official telling CNN, the company decided it was not comfortable hosting him a mid plan protest.
Our Jason Carroll went to the heart of Harley country in Wisconsin to talk to voters and see what they think of the new president. Here's tonight's "America Uncovered" report.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Back to United States ...
JASON CARROLL, CNN NATIONAL CORRESPONDENT: When you look at the reason why Donald Trump unexpectedly flipped the State of Wisconsin, look no further than this bar right outside of Milwaukee. This is Gamroth's Kubeurg Junction in Germantown. It caters to a lot of Harley-Davidson employees who come from the plant just a few miles away. The patrons have plenty of praise for the president and find little tolerance for those protesting against him.
KIM GAMROTH, TRUMP SUPPORTER: Get over it. He's in. He's in. And just stop it. Stop it.
CARROLL: Kim Gamroth owns this bar and says her feelings mirror those of many in the community, a community that voted for Trump over Hillary Clinton by nearly two to one. Donnie Balusik is a Trump supporter. Balusik says he worked at Harley-Davidson for more than 40 years before he retired and was also a small business owner.
DONNIE BALUSIK, TRUMP SUPPORTER: It cost me a good business I had like a bar like this, you know, or some certain people move in an area and the white people move out.
CARROLL: Do you mean certain people, people who look like me or?
BALUSIK: Well, the neighborhood changed a lot. Like 90 percent within two years. The white people won't come in and I had to sell it.
CARROLL: Under going forward, does it leave you with an unfavorable view of black people, Mexican people?
BALUSIK: Yes, it does. I'll be honest with you. I'm very prejudice, and a lot of people know that.
CARROLL: Balusik says his point of view is unedited. One that he says few people like him, share publicly.
Do you believe a lot of other people who feel the way you do also voted for Trump because they feel the way you do?
BALUSIK: They do. Trust me.
CARROLL: Jennifer Murray and Kim Gamroth voted for Trump and are happy with what they have seen so far.
JENNIFER MURRAY, TRUMP SUPPORTER: He is backing up what he had said. You know, he's finally standing up for America, for the citizens of America and.
GAMROTH: For small businesses, for everybody who voted for him. He said what he was going to do and he's doing it.
CARROLL: They also hope the president will keep pressuring U.S. companies to make more products in the United States. Harley- Davidson, for example, assembles bikes in the United States but makes many parts overseas in countries like Mexico.
Ross Winklbauer, the head of the local steel workers union is encouraged by Trump pulling out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, but he says was not good for U.S. workers but he's personally troubled by the administration immigration plan.
ROSS WINKLBAUER, LOCAL DIRECTOR OF UNITED STEELWORKERS: The Green Lady, Statue of Liberty, you know, welcome. And I just believe that's the way it should be.
CARROLL: Back at Gamroth's, patrons, such as Donnie Balusik are on board with what Trump has done so far and hope he continues to fulfill his promises.
BALUSIK: I hope he gets another four years after this one, got to be better than the Democrats.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And Jason Carroll joins us now from Milwaukee. It's interesting that the head of the local union there, you know, was expressing reservations about Donald Trump except for the TPP but seems like the rank in file is not following the lead of the head of union there?
CARROLL: You're absolutely right. I mean, look, when you look at the places like Milwaukee, you'll find a lot of people who are sort of on the fence when it comes to the president or even supported Hillary Clinton but, you know, this election was one outside cities like Milwaukee and places like Germantown and when you go out to places like that, Anderson, the support is overwhelming and to many of the people who some of the people that you heard in the piece says the president isn't really being given a fair shot.
They say look, this is a man that hasn't been in office for a month, and yet everyone seem to be against him. So, you really get a sense of how strong the support is for people -- for the president when you go outside the cities. Anderson.
COOPER: All right. Jason Carroll thanks very much.
In the next hour of 360 more on the breaking news in the White House, Pres. Trump changing his message or at least appearing to change his message somewhat to Israel.
Also, how far will the president go to punish Iran for new missile test ...